Selfishness is the greatest curse of the human race – William E Gladstone – four times British Prime Minister
Is it ironic that the slogan for the Corona lager’s 2020 advertising campaign is, ‘Coming Ashore Soon’? It’s unfortunate similarity – in name only – to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is starting to sound more like a threat than anticipation.
Has the world gone mad? It’s a question I think we’ve been asking for many a long year and is now on everyone’s lips again, even if they are now covered with a mask. This virus, recently classed by the World Health Organisation as a pandemic, is poised to wreck havoc on the vulnerable, ie: the aged, the infirm and those with weak immune systems.
There have already been so many column inches, blogs and memes (from the widow’s mite – placing her last loo roll in the offering plate – to Gollum’s new ‘Precious’ – the same Andrex-themed idea) on the topic, I was sorely tempted to ignore it altogether.
Just as I got a notification that the last case of Ebola had been discharged from hospital in the Congo, the European panic over the Coronavirus seems to have ramped up to a new level on the headless chicken scale. No one seemed to ever get this freaked out by the number of people who die each week from flu, heart disease, cancer, AIDs and suicide, but perhaps those things seemed distanced from the norms of everyday suburbia.
Very few of us were around for Spanish flu and its decimating effects across Europe and the world in 1918, but there are still people around who went through World War II with it’s rationing, bombings and deprivations. History and recollections of those who were in the thick of it suggest that the spirit of pulling together, community largesse and a gritty determination to pull through together somehow, were the order of the day then. The contrast today is dramatic. Scuffles in the supermarket over supplies and ‘essentials’; the, “I’m-alright-Jack” vibe from smug hoarders and the genuine bafflement of the elderly that thinking of others, sharing and kindness – character traits that we’re supposed to teach our children in their earliest years – have all but disappeared in a toxic puff of self-preservation. This impression is only slightly mollified by the snippets on social media of valiant Italians singing in unison, with various levels of tunefulness, on their balconies.
What do nations do when threatened with a national emergency? Buying all the loo rolls wouldn’t have been my first answer, but it’s amazing which metaphorical straws people cling to when they think their own ship is going down.
Anti-Bacterial wash/hand gel? But its a virus not a bacteria.
Tutoring on washing hands? Good heavens; have mothers not been teaching this for generations? Whether you sing, ‘Happy Birthday’ twice or ‘Amazing Grace’ while you do it is by the by; it should have been going on anyway. It’s pretty shocking that we need to be taught this, and long overdue if the swift exits out of public toilets are anything to go by.
If the NHS wasn’t already under enough pressure this viral invader is causing absolute mayhem as far as I can tell. Putting yourself in isolation is not a matter of sitting on the naughty step for 10 minutes, but locking yourself away for a fortnight. Italy is on lockdown until the beginning of April. Sounds like a great excuse to catch up on sleep, Netflix, DIY and wait for Spring if you ask me.
I’m not being facetious; this is a serious threat which requires a serious response. Taking steps to protect yourself, your family and the rest of your community is responsible, wise and compassionate so long as those decisions aren’t driven by fear and anxiety. My concern is that more people may die of self-induced stress than the wretched virus itself as social media and the herd mentality whip us into a frenzy of panic.
However, having been diagnosed myself with one of the nasties (breast cancer) last month, I can attest to how a moment of personal, let alone national, crisis concentrates the mind. It’s certainly a great, if unwelcome, reminder about our mortality.
The fact that we will all die one day seems to be startling news to a large swathe of the population. We know it in an abstract, theoretical way but our culture usually goes out of it’s way to avoid the topic, even using elaborate euphemisms to avoid the ugly word. Other, supposedly ‘less developed’, nations often have a more down-to-earth pragmatism about death with opportunities for a whole community to mourn, process and celebrate a life together.
Rather than freak out about this inevitability, I want to be focused and prepared so I can finish well when the time comes. Some people do more research on their holiday destination (though it may be closer to home for many than they originally planned this year), than on their eternal one. That seems rather foolish to me. The truth is that we all have a faith of some sort whether it’s in ourselves, an abstract force, a religion or in science. It’s no secret that mine lies in the Creator God who, bafflingly, remains committed to loving the creatures He made, despite their determined rejection of Him, and who sent Jesus to bridge the yawning rift in relationship with Him. I choose – daily sometimes – to trust Him, His promises and His finished work of salvation which allows me to know Him personally. Following rules and regulations is dead religion; I have no time for that and I don’t believe God does either. He is a God of abundant life, exuberant grace and unfettered joy; I need that every day!
Concerning my own health, I am very fortunate. My condition was picked up via a routine mammogram and recall procedure. While it requires invasive surgery and radiotherapy, it appears to be manageable, doable and not life threatening. It will certainly be a bonus to return safely to the UK from South Africa for that – governments, airlines and pandemic permitting. But there’s no doubt that a day will come when I do take my last breath. There is no toilet roll fort or hand-sanitizer lake will stop that certainty. Until then I’ll take this wisdom to heart: ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:1